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‘Groceryships’ Could Set a Course for Healthy Eating

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page and our Health Issues page.

In recent years, a consensus has been taking shape among food justice advocates, as well as nutrition and public health experts. While access to fresh, healthy food is important to changing dietary trends, these groups tend to agree, it's only one piece of the puzzle.

A new project in South Los Angeles has set out to prove that another piece of the puzzle-educating people how to cook whole foods-can work wonders.

Like many parts of the country, the area has been described as a "food desert." Fresh produce is hard to come by and fast food or packaged snacks are often easier and cheaper-at least at first glance-than the ingredients required to prepare a balanced meal.

Enter Groceryships: scholarships for groceries.

Here's how it works: For six months, 10 South L.A. families receive weekly allowance to spend on plant-based groceries, in the form of gift cards allowing them to buy fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts. In addition to financial help, the families attend weekly classes on health, nutrition, and cooking, focusing mainly on plant-based foods. They also get some back up, including "group support, a peer-buddy system, and mentoring."

The program, which will wrap up its first six-month session in August, is based on the idea that healthy eating is a spectrum and it's almost always possible to find something better to eat than fast food and junk food, even in under-resourced areas.

"We're dealing with poor families that are struggling to get by and we're saying, 'try this quinoa salad.' If you're really stretched, that's a big risk," says Sam Polk, founder and director of the eponymous nonprofit behind the Groceryships program. "During the course of our program, we want to give families a little bit of breathing room to experiment with new foods and develop new habits."     


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